GENEVA — More than 200,000 Syrians have poured into neighboring countries in the course of its 17-month-long conflict, with a recent surge pushing the total past the 185,000 the U.N. refugee agency had expected to flee by the end of this year.
The total reflects an increase of about 30,000 in the past week alone to Turkey, Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan but also includes those awaiting registration in Jordan, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said.
“There has been a dramatic increase in the number of refugees in the region during August,” spokesman Adrian Edwards said in Geneva on Friday, adding that the agency expected to issue new contingency planning figures by around mid-September.
Turkey continues to see the largest refugee influx, with more than 74,000 registered as of Wednesday, Edwards said.
More than 3,500 people fleeing violence in Syria have entered Turkey over the past 24 hours, Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Directorate said Friday, one of the highest daily flows since the start of the uprising.
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said this week that Turkey could run out of space if the number went above 100,000 and suggested the United Nations may instead need to create a “safe zone” inside Syria.
Turkey is expected to raise the issue at a Security Council meeting Aug. 30, Edwards said. Divisions in the U.N. Security Council pose a major obstacle to the creation of any such U.N. safe haven, which would need robust military protection unless Damascus gave its consent.
Edwards told reporters that in Jordan, “a record 2,200 people crossed the border overnight and were received at Za’atri camp in the north.”
Za’atri, where the first baby was born three days ago, now shelters 14,500 refugees, he said. About 61,000 Syrian refugees have registered with UNHCR or await registration, while the Jordanian government estimates 150,000 Syrians are actually in the country, he added.
Iraq is home to nearly 16,000 Syrian refugees, UNHCR said.
Referring to Lebanon, where 51,000 Syrian refugees are registered, Edwards said that the deteriorating security situation there was hampering, though not preventing, the agency’s efforts to help them.
The UNHCR opened a registration centre in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli this week but it closed Friday for security reasons, Edwards said.
Meanwhile, Syrian troops forced rebels to abandon the Damascus suburb of Darayya after a three-day bombardment by artillery, tanks, mortars, rockets and helicopter gunships in which at least 70 people were killed, 21 of them on Friday, opposition activists said.
“The fear now is that the army will round up young men and summarily execute them, like it did in Moadamiya,” an activist named Abu Kinan said, referring to a nearby suburb where residents said troops killed at least 40 people in cold blood this week.
Activists reported a similar push by government forces in the capital’s Qaboun district , with at least 46 people killed.
More than 90 people were killed across Syria on Friday, including 22 civilians in the eastern province of Deir al-Zour, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.